Older still than anima is the Hebrew word, nephesh, which appears in the
Torah representing both the spirit and the soul, possessed equally by humans and
animals. It is worth knowing that, after His baptism, Jesus went immediately
into the wilderness where Mark tells us "the wild ones were his companions.
(alternative but acceptable translation)."
The Rabbi in Portsmouth once told a story of two Rabbi traveling through a land
of the profoundest wickedness. Everywhere they walked, they saw the sins of
humanity displayed like banners. Finally, the younger one turned to his teacher
and said, "Surely, the Lord God will not suffer this place any longer but send
fire and flood to wipe it away."
"Well," said the elder, "you know the scripture, how God was willing to spare a
wicked city city for the sake of one righteous." Then he pointed up the road.
"There she is, the saint for whose sake, the Thunderer of Israel allows these
sinners to survive.
The younger Rabbi looked up and there in the road was a doe, nursing her fawns.
Balaam's Donkey is such a powerful story, the only time in official scripture an
animal gets to speak to a human. She appeals for mercy in terms of their
companionship, moving words, "Haven't I always been your donkey? Haven't I
always served you?" And, Balaam, poor wretch, is so filled with homicidal
rage that he doesn't realize he's caught up in a miracle - let alone that she
has just saved his sorry little soul. A powerful metaphor for how we relate to
our critterly colleagues....
People debate so fiercely about Jonah's Fish/Whale/SeaCeature, but never seem to
read the last chapter of the story. They miss the part where God tells the
prophet that Nineveh will be spared not only for its repentence, but for the
sake of her children and animals.
In the last chapters of Job, chapters one scholar called "God's Hymn to
Wildness", God reminds Job of something that we anthro-centric folks sometimes
want to forget - God don't need us. In many conversations, I've known people who
have confessed that the real reason they are troubled by the idea that God might
love animals, love them enough to individualize them and continue sentient in
another world, is the peculiar notion that God's love is finite. That, somehow,
God's heart is too small to love humans and animals as well. Wasn't it a fellow
name Phillips who decades ago wrote a little religious book titled Your God is
Or, as one of my more satirical colleagues put it, folks want to meet grandma
and grandpa in Heaven, not the dog they ran over, the mice they trapped, or cow
they had for dinner their last night. But, as C.S.Lewis put it, "When you get to
Heaven, prepare for surprizes!"
I am not Roman Catholic bur I was raised around many Catholic people, along with
a spectrum of folks from Armenian Orthodox to Bahai. While I reject many of the
positions the official church has taken regarding animals, both official and in
the attitudes of many of its folks, I appreciate the integrity of their stating
a position in such a way that we can debate it.
And, speaking of debate, Andrew Linzey is out with a new book - new to me,
anyway - entitled Children of the Same God.